Can You Answer These Job Interview Questions?


There are many questions that you might be asked in a job interview. While the questions themselves will vary, the thrust or point of the questions asked is identical; get to know you enough to find if you’re the best candidate. The best candidate in their mind might be the one who fits in with the existing team chemistry, the one who will be able to do the job with the least amount of training or perhaps the one who will bring creativity and innovation.

As the job applicant, you may say this is exactly why job interviews are so stressful; you’re not sure what they’re looking for which makes it impossible to present yourself in the best possible way; and you know you could if you could just figure that out.

So the questions I’m putting down here are not guaranteed to be the ones you’ll get asked. There’s no way someone could guarantee such a list. These will give you a good sense though of what you might be asked. If you can answer these strongly with examples from your past to provide proof of your skills and experience, you’ll be well prepared.

So, can you? Here goes:

Tell me about yourself.

What is your understanding of the job functions for the position you are applying to?

How does your combination of education and experience uniquely qualify you for this job?

In what area(s) would you need training and support to become fully productive if hired?

Impress me.

How would you define customer service excellence and give an example from your past when you’ve provided it.

Share a weakness of yours as it relates to the job and what have you done to improve on this?

Share with us two local and two international stories in the news at the moment.

Describe your experience working productively in a group or team setting.

How would your previous supervisor describe your performance?

Please explain this 3 year gap on your résumé.

Do you have a criminal record? (Sure it’s illegal to ask, but if it is, you’ve got to say something!)

What are your salary expectations?

Tell us about an experience you’ve had working with a co-worker who was difficult to get along with.

Describe the steps you’ve taken to resolve a conflict.

Describe your filing system.

Which is more important, a clock or a compass?

Describe your ideal supervisor.

You’ve got 45 minutes to convince me you’re the right person to hire. Go!

It’s 10 minutes to quitting time and someone has just arrived who will need at least 20 to serve. What do you say and do?

What are the qualities you’d ideally look for in a co-worker?

What qualities annoy you most in others?

Tell us about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do?

What comes to mind when I ask you to share your proudest moment?

Describe your personal availability and willingness to work a variety of shifts.

When I call your references, what will I learn about you that might surprise me?

Are you bondable?

Give me an example of a conflict you’ve had with a co-worker or supervisor and the steps you took to resolve the situation.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?

What are your future plans education-wise?

What are you reading at the moment?

Where do you stand on the issue of __________?

When can you start?

Describe a recent experience in which your patience was severely tested.

So how did you do? I suppose you may have wondered at some of the questions; why they’d ask this one or is that one even legal? If you can figure out the purpose of the question asked; what the question is designed to get at, it makes it easier to respond in such a way that the interviewer(s) are impressed. If on the other hand you’re stumped and can’t figure out the purpose or reason they’d ask, you might flounder a bit which could shake your confidence.

These are of course only a small sample of what you might be asked. The best way to prepare for the real questions you’ll actually be asked is to go over the job posting or ad. Highlight exactly what skills and  experience as well as look at the job responsibilities, (what you’d be doing) and you’ll predict with some certainty what they’ll ask.

If you read over the list here and don’t understand the purpose of a question, feel free to comment and ask. While there may be an odd one asked of you, my advice is not to dwell on the one weird question; focus on answering the questions you can prepare for, and do your best with the off-the-wall one you couldn’t have predicted. That question is really designed to see you think on your feet. So for example, “Tell me a story.” You might think, “About what?” The point of the question though is to see how quickly you get your brain in gear and just do it, and what does it show or say about you in terms of what you share.

Oh and please, feel free to share questions you’ve had asked of you or that you ask of applicants if you interview. Each of the questions I’ve provided here have actually been asked in the real world. So come on, share a little!

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Want To Be A Great Employment Counsellor?


Now and again I hear people say to me, “I’m sure I could do your job; it doesn’t look that hard.”

That comment is one I take with a smile and usually respond with, “Thank you! I’m succeeding then in making it look effortless when in fact it takes a lot of preparation, planning, skills, experience and mental energy. If you’re ready to put in all the effort to continually get better every day, why not?”

Like any profession, you’ll find Employment Counsellors of varying abilities; some strong, others learning the ropes, many improving and some stagnating and using out-of-date techniques. Why should this field be any different from others?

Let me share what I believe are some of the key qualities, skills and traits which many of the very best of us hold. It’s a list that’s open to debate, but here’s at least this professionals take on the job from someone in the position. Please comment and indicate if you’re in the field now, in training to join us, receiving the help of an Employment Counsellor yourself or are considering the field. Dialogue and comments can be very productive!

  1. A good listener. While we hear similar stories from those we aid, no two people have exactly the same background and their path to the present is unique. The best of us remember that and listen attentively; picking up on the person’s interests, motivators, barriers real and perceived, hopes, goals and dreams. When we actively listen in the moment, we engage and establish credibility and hear what we’d otherwise miss.
  2. A positive influence. We often meet people in periods of desperation, frustration and hopelessness. It is imperative that we remind ourselves of the stress and pressure people are under. The faith they place in our ability to help; whether great or small is what we must take and work with. There’s great potential in those we help and we must through our actions bring out the best by encouraging and above all providing hope. We must influence action with positivity.
  3. Enthusiastic. Ah if you know me you just know this has to be in the list. Enthusiasm is contagious and infectious. I think it safe to say that most if not all learners hope to be in the presence of a teacher or mentor who goes about imparting their knowledge with energy and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means we embody and display the most desirable trait employers themselves are looking for in the people they interview; enthusiasm!
  4. Knowledgeable. Broadly speaking, all learners hope that those they learn from are sharing best practices, state of the art techniques and what is proven to work. The best of us are never above doing self-checks, reaching out to our colleagues, continuing to grow and learn ourselves. This is self-investment that keeps us relevant, imparting not what we believe works but rather what we know works; and yes there is a difference.
  5. Creatively flexible. Now here’s a key piece! The great in this profession know that when we identify a person’s needs, responding to them in a way that the person will both comprehend and come to own mean we may have to use a number of strategies to get the message through. How we were successful with one person doesn’t mean the same delivery will work with others. Our approach may have to be as unique as the people we help. Rather than expecting the learner to conform to our own style, we often change our approach to reach others where we find them.
  6. An appreciation of service. Just as we expect to receive great customer service when we are the customer, exceptional Employment Counsellors know that we are essentially service providers ourselves. We therefore practice good customer service skills; deliver on what we promise, work to satisfy both the customers wants and needs, share tips, advice and assure our availability when needed after service.
  7. Honest feedback. Great Employment Counsellors give honest feedback on what they see. Be it a résumé needing an overhaul, hearing self-defeating language in a mock interview or observing poor hygiene and clothing issues, a trusting relationship with those we serve will best allow us to provide the critical feedback that people need to hear. The best deliver this feedback from a helping perspective, choosing words with sensitivity but saying what needs to be said. Honest feedback can get to the heart of a problem quicker than dancing around an issue and wasting their time.
  8. Praising. The best praise when needed, ensuring the praise is legitimate not fabricated. We find what is good in others, encouraging them to do more of what is working in a person’s favour. Positive reinforcement of good behaviours, praising effort even when success isn’t necessarily forthcoming sets people up to eventually realize their goals. Remember looking for work is fraught with ups and downs, highs and lows, raised expectations and dashed hopes. As an Employment Counsellor, you just might be THE one person they are hanging all their hopes on until they can once again be self-sufficient.

So there you have it; a short list of some the essentials needed to be not just a good Employment Counsellor but a great one. And why not aspire to be the best you can be? Whether a Coach or Counsellor, the best look to get better and see room for self-improvement always.

Thoughts?

Reframe The Job Interview


Looking for a job, writing resumes, going to interviews, worrying about whether they will call you or ignore you; this isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. In fact, most of those I know see the process as a roller coaster of ups and downs, built up expectations and dashed hopes. In short, a stressful experience to be ended as soon as possible by getting a job.

When I ask job seekers to share with me what they find most annoying or unpleasant about looking for work they almost always tell me it’s the job interviews. They typically say they hate them, (and hate is a pretty strong word). Why does this word get used over and over to describe the experience? Typically it’s because of those feelings of nervousness, feeling judged, evaluated, setting themselves up to be accepted or rejected.

Imagine how the experience of the job interview, and more importantly the anticipation of the job interview became something to look forward to however; something you perceived as an enjoyable experience. If job interviews were fun wouldn’t you look forward to them even if, yes they still caused you some nervousness?

An analogy might help us out here….hmmm….what would work for us…? Ah ha! Think of going on a date with someone you’ve heard good things about. Better than a blind date set up by one of your friends, suppose you’ve got a date Friday night with someone you’re looking forward to meeting face-to-face. You’re looking forward to sitting down with them because what you’ve learned so far about them has your interest peaked. You hope that meeting them in-person they’ll live up to what you’ve found out so far. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but it’s a good nervous and the anticipation is a good thing.

Why can’t a job interview be along the same lines? You do your homework and find out about the company you are interviewing with. You hope when you sit down face-to-face that they’ll live up to your expectations. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but again it’s a good nervous. You just might make a long-term working relationship out of this first meeting. You’re hoping to hit it off with them and them with you. Just like a first date, you spruce yourself up and look your best and come ready for conversation.

Now perhaps you can’t see any parallel beyond what I’ve described. In your view, it’s not like a date because in a first date each person comes with their questions, each feeling out the other and the conversation goes back and forth. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you personally because you view the job interview not so much as a first date but more like an interrogation from some spy movie where you sit on a cold steel chair under some intense light being grilled by some thug extracting all your information in the most unpleasant of circumstances. The worst part is that by submitting your résumé, you actually walked into this interrogation voluntarily!

Job interviews are like so many other things in life; how we perceive them in our minds goes a long way to how we will actually experience them. Imagine it to be an interrogation and that’s what it will be. Imagine it to be a fun enjoyable experience and it will be as well. Now I know it takes more than just picturing it as a positive experience to make it so, but when you shift your thinking to seeing interviews as good experiences to look forward to, you’ll also find putting in the work to make the experience a positive one is something you’ll undertake with enthusiasm.

That date this Friday evening? Likely you’ll get your outfit ready ahead of time, you’ll wonder what you’ll talk about and prepare yourself with a few questions for them. You also think about what you’ll share on this first date, probably putting your best qualities on display and concealing some of your faults until you get to know them better. You’ll think about what you’ll do, wonder how you’ll get out of it if things don’t go well, or if they do, you hope they’ll like you as much as you like them. When it’s over, you’ll hope they’ll reach out and ask to see you again or be receptive to your own follow-up.

Sounds like an interview to me! In fact, what if the term, ‘job interview’ was replaced with, ‘opportunity conversation’? What if you told yourself you have an upcoming conversation about an opportunity? It’s just a small thing perhaps but it’s one step of reframing this experience from the negative event you dislike into one that you could view as positive; something to look forward to even.

Conversations are one way we find out information and confirm what we’ve learned previously. For both you and the interviewer(s), this interview is an opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get to know one another. They’ve got your résumé and you’ve got their website and whatever your research has revealed ahead of time. Now they and you have a chance to ask questions, listen and rate each other, ultimately deciding if you have a future together and if so, under what conditions.

Tell yourself ahead of time this date is going to be a disaster and it likely will be. Envision it positively and it has a chance to work out and be enjoyable; for both of you.

“I Don’t Like Boasting About Myself.”


When it comes to preparing for job interviews, a great number of people I help tell me that one of their biggest problems with the process is that they find it hard to talk about themselves. They say that from an early age they’ve been taught not to boast about themselves and so to sit down and tell an interviewer how great they are is hard because it’s just not something they are comfortable with.

Fair enough. Now while I don’t advise being boastful to anyone preparing for an interview, I do look and listen for reasons a person may not have a history of excelling in the interview process and so if this is a widespread issue it needs addressing.

What’s really needed to overcome this situation is a re-framing of what it means to articulate ones strengths and then market these strengths as assets to be desired by the employer. Keep in mind that the employer, as represented by the person or people conducting the job interview, is evaluating each applicant against the company’s needs. The candidate(s) who most closely fulfill those needs are the ones offered employment.

So you have a problem with boasting about yourself? Excellent! I couldn’t agree with you more so please don’t think I’m going to try to convince you that in job interviews you should make an exception and do exactly that. Let’s be clear however what boasting actually is though shall we? Boasting is exaggerating ones abilities beyond what they truly are.

The major issue with boasting is that you have to live up to whatever claims you make, and if you said, “I’m the best Plumber in the entire mid-west”, what kind of proof could you offer up to make this claim as an empirical fact? Unless they have some event pitting all the people in that trade against one another to determine the very best, you’d be hard pressed to have people just take you at your word.

Don’t be boastful then. Yes mom and dad and/or your childhood teachers were right.

However, I do advocate and strongly advise that you market yourself in the same way marketing firms promote products and services to we consumers. Not only do they tell us what products are, they would have us believe that the benefits of those products are so good that we simply have to have them. They promote the products often and in a way that attracts the attention of those to whom they see as their target audience. Their goal? Be memorable and prompt you and I as the consumers to act and purchase the products.

Like those commercials, you too should walk away from any job interview feeling that you’ve made an impression on the interviewer(s). You want to be memorable and the best way to accomplish this is to sell them on how having you join the organization is going to benefit them.

Make no mistake about this; you can accomplish this whether you are shy and naturally a reserved person or a confident extrovert. It’s not about how loud you are but rather how well you communicate  what it is that will as I say benefit the company. Are you a solution to their problem? Will you bring stability to the position? Is your combination of experience, education and personality going to mesh with those who you’ll work with better than any other candidate?

So how do you go about selling yourself without being boastful? First off, know yourself. No seriously! No one has taken the same path in life to get where you are right now, so what have you done, learned, overcome, struggled with in the past, achieved, accomplished, been noted by previous employers and co-workers as your strengths and desirable attributes? If you shared this information with an interview in a matter-of-fact way, you’d be marketing yourself not boasting about yourself.

Try this out loud: “I am a ________.” (Name of your profession.) Now say this out loud: “I am a good ________.” Now say out loud, “I am a very good _______.” While most readers will find they were able to state their job title in the first sentence with relative ease, the number of people who were able to go on and say they were good and then very good at it drops off as the one word accelerates the degree to which you state your high worth. So would you be able to say, “I am an excellent ___________?”

Understand that a company ideally wants to hire the best candidate for a job opening. They count on applicants to share with them the information they’ll need upon which to base their hiring decisions. Even if they don’t ask it outright, they are constantly thinking, “Why should I hire you?” It’s up to you to give them examples from your past which prove you have the skills you say you do – and examples by the way keep you from making claims you can’t support (boasting!).

Think to yourself: Okay here’s who I am; these are my strengths. I’ve accomplished these things and here’s what others have complimented or appreciated about me in places I’ve worked. I’m a good fit for this job based on my personality, attitude, qualifications and personal motivation. You’d be well-advised to show some enthusiasm for the position too.

Boasting and marketing are not the same thing. Market yourself dear reader!

 

“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Isn’t For Me


In my job as an Employment Counsellor, I hear the mantra, “Fake it ’til you make it” from a number of people; why even some of my fellow employees. Is this really the best advice to give someone and what dangers do we expose those people to who follow such advice?

The thrust of the context in which I hear this advice being passed on the most seems to be tied to the job interview. You know, you have some innate weakness or soft spot and instead of owning up or voluntarily providing information pertaining to it, you’d be better advised to cover things up by acting the way you assume the interviewer would see as most desirable; even when this isn’t the real you. Eventually you believe or hope you’ll come around to having the skill you really don’t, or behaving the way you currently don’t. If you can fake your way through the interview, over time on the job, you’ll be the person you’re claiming to be now.

I don’t like that advice. First of all it’s dangerous. Claiming you have skills and qualifications you don’t could lead the person on the receiving end of the advice to become injured by operating machinery in unsafe ways or handling dangerous products without the knowledge needed to do so responsibly.

Heeding such suggestions also opens a person up to being assessed as dishonest, unbelievable, a poor risk and none of these are the kind of traits employers seek out. You’d like to be thought of as genuine; a straight-shooter, honest and someone who is believable.

Perhaps you might agree that lying or insinuating you have certain skills you don’t isn’t what is being suggested by the phrase at all. You might suggest it has more to do with overcoming shyness, a lack of self-confidence or interpersonal skill deficiencies.  Okay let’s look at that. So suppose you convince a timid job seeker that showing a little more bravado or courage would be a good thing and increase their chances at getting through a job interview and obtaining an offer. You tell them that the interviewer doesn’t know them at all, and therefore they can fake that self-confidence until they get out of the interview and hopefully made enough of a good impression that they get hired.

This sounds on the surface as not bad advice at all. However, what I’ve witnessed as outcomes of this strategy are two developing problems. First, the person once hired can’t maintain the façade they put up over a 45 minute interview and when exposed or confronted, reverts to their genuine behaviour. Second, the person themselves feels immense pressure and stress to be someone they aren’t; to fake being something that isn’t natural for them and essentially they’ve been set up with yet one more thing to stress about. That’s far from helpful.

The irony I’ve seen and heard is that the same people who are saying, “Fake it ’til you make it” are also saying, “There’s no one as unique as you in the world so be yourself”. Talk about mixed messages.

I do think that anytime you try to learn something new you introduce the possibility of failure as much as you hope for success. It is often a struggle in the initial stages when learning, and you might have setbacks. If what you are attempting to do is change your behaviour, you will need to stretch outside your comfort zone and do things differently than you’ve done in the past. Until such time as you feel comfortable and normal behaving a certain way, you will be conflicted between what you’ve always done that feels natural and what you’re striving to do that seems foreign and strange.

I don’t believe however that the period of transition from one to the other is faking it. I think in fact the transition period is very real; that people in this period are so genuine that it’s both exciting and scary simultaneously. So the quiet, reserved person who is after a ‘people’ job where strong communication and interpersonal skills are desired by the employer may struggle in the transition period, but what they feel is real, what they experience is genuine. If the motivation is sincere and strong, it will be enough to sustain through the transition period until they gain comfort that comes from naturally behaving and acting the way they want.

Like any new learning, building on small successes until a new skill or behaviour is mastered is desirable. One small success gives a person encouragement and reinforces the results they want to achieve. Faking anything implies you not only run the risk of being exposed by others who see through you, but you ultimately know you are faking what you’re doing; and it’s pretty hard to delude yourself when you’re intentionally faking anything.

It sounds nice though doesn’t it? It’s short, rhymes and if told to us by someone we respect as wise, it can sound like excellent advice; fake it ’til you make it. However, if you want a different mantra try, “To thine own self be true.” This has been around a lot longer; be true to yourself and others will respect you for being who you are. When you do land a job offer, you’ll end up with a job that fits with who you are and one in which you can be yourself.

 

“Why Should We Hire You?”


Play along we me here; you’re sailing along in the interview and feeling pretty confident about your chances so far. Then, nearing the end of the process you’re asked by one of the people on the panel, “Why should we hire you?”

Now this question can take various forms. It could be they say, “Why are you the right person for the job?” or “What makes you the perfect candidate over the others?” However they phrase it to you, this is opportunity knocking, and your chance to either wow them or leave them wondering how you got through the screening in the first place.

This is your chance to shine Sunshine. If the job is one you really want, you’ll be doing an imaginary fist pump at this point and your brain will silently scream, “Yes!” because you’ve been looking for a chance to tell them exactly how much you want this job and communicating genuine enthusiasm for the position will come naturally to you. Why? Because you really want this job and the fit with your skills, interests and qualifications is matched with the personal suitability.

If on the other hand, you hear them ask, “Why should we hire you?” and you’re doubtful that you are in fact the best person for the job because it’s not your dream position, you’re brain might not scream, “Yes!” but rather, “Good question..”

Okay so let’s look at the possibilities. First and foremost you want your body language to communicate some real excitement for the work you’ll be doing. You’ll want this enthusiasm for the work to be transmitted in your posture, your voice and your content.

Move your behind to the front 1/3 of the chair you’re seated in. You don’t want to be on the verge of falling off or getting in the personal space of the interviewer, but you do want to engage and look assertive as you deliver your answer.

Plant your feet solidly on the floor, smile and make solid eye contact; not the “I’m boring into the rear of your skull, mind-probing, wide-eyed crazy look, just good solid eye contact. The smile is important because you should be thinking happy thoughts as you relate why you should be hired. Your ever-so-close to getting this job you really want, and the excitement of just thinking about that should come across in a radiant smile. You want this job and it makes you happy just imagining it. What employer doesn’t want happy workers?

Okay, so you’re seated properly, your leaning forward slightly and you’re smiling. You’ve taken care of the non-verbal body language that is going to support the words coming out of your mouth. Great. Now remember one thing before you get to this point; the question, “Why should we hire you?” is not the same as the question, “Why do you want this job?” The first question is about how the company would benefit and the second question is more about why you personally would benefit. This process has never been about what you want but about fitting an employer’s needs so they are stronger overall with you than without you.

The research you do before ever getting to the interview will help you here. Know why the position was created if you can. Are they expanding or downsizing, are you there to fill a short-term need like a pregnancy leave or will you be in for the long-term on a permanent basis? Are they looking for someone to come in, work hard and go home or are they looking for a problem-solver who can turn things around? If you can identify the above, you’ll know the way to strategically answer this question and tackle it from the right point of view.

The second thing you should think about is that you can’t possibly know who you are up against; well most of the time anyhow. So comparing yourself to what you imagine to be your competition isn’t a good move. You don’t have the knowledge the interviewer(s) do so you don’t want to bring competitors into the conversation when this is your time. Focus on what makes you great.

Be authentic in your response. Here’s why I’m the perfect fit for you at this time. This ladies and gentleman, is not the time to remember what mom said when she told you, “Nobody likes a person who talks about how great they are.” Forget that advice. This is precisely the time for you to not brag but rather MARKET yourself as the best option to choose to meet the needs of the employer.

Break your answer into these pieces: Your education and experience, your personal suitability and what makes you unique. No one after all has had the same path to get to this point. So what have you done or accomplished that stands out, that gives you a unique perspective, that you could draw on in this position which would help you do the job better.

The absolute worse thing you can do is not think about this question until you are asked it in an interview and then count on your good looks and charm to wing it off the cuff. It may sound fabulous to you, but it probably comes across as spontaneous and like you’re thinking about it for the first time. Not good.

So, why do you want this job?

The Interview Question About Past Mistakes


Ever been sitting in an interview and asked to share a situation from you past where you made a mistake, then had to go about fixing it? Why do they ask you such a question you may wonder? Well wonder no more. This question is designed to highlight three key things: 1) will you be honest and actually share an error you made and 2) do you take ownership for your error’s and 3) when you do make errors, how do you go about rectifying the initial mistake.

Now one thing that’s critical in responding to a question of making mistakes is to admit that you make them. The absolute worst thing you do is look thoughtful and then say you can’t honestly think of a time when you’ve ever made an error. To make such a statement tells an interviewer you don’t know yourself very well, nor are you being honest and therefore can’t be trusted.

Making mistakes is how many of us learn. Ever heard of the statement, “Well, I won’t make THAT mistake again!” Of course you have. People make this statement or something similar to it when they have made an error and don’t want the unpleasant experience to be repeated. They take steps to ensure that if and when they find themselves in a similar situation, they will recall the poor experience and choose an alternative action that they hope will result in a more positive outcome.

Likewise you may have experience yourself or heard others speak of trial and error. This is a process where you try an approach to something and expect to fail. When you do, you learn a small piece of information that makes the next trial a step in the right direction because you’ve eliminated one possibility. With your next or upcoming several attempts, you learn more until eventually you figure something out having learned many small bits of information. In the end, you create something having learned from your trial attempts.

The key to answering the question in an interview is to demonstrate your capacity to learn from errors and mistakes. In learning something, you reduce the future incidence of mistakes, thereby improving on arriving at workable solutions faster. When you arrive at solutions faster, you save yourself and the organization you may work for both time and money. You may also save precious resources, goods and products; and you may save relationships with their clients, customers or suppliers.

Now usually it follows that the bigger the mistake you’ve made, the bigger the learning opportunity. However, having said this, it’s extremely unwise to share some catastrophic calamity that you were the cause of – no matter what you learned from the process. If you made the mistake of smoking in a non-smoking area and your past employer’s place of business was leveled to the ground in a fiery explosion, that mistake might be too big to overcome in an interview. Especially if you worked in some well-respected animal rescue shelter and there was a loss of both animal and human life. Yes, let’s agree not to share this mistake!

So the key is to share a mistake that is significant enough that you need to address it, but not so huge that you will be forever linked to a disaster which cost your employer a huge setback in operations. An employer doesn’t want your error to cost them money or their reputation. Both these commodities are precious to them and any threat to them (such as hiring you) is something they’ll want to avoid.

Sharing an error you’ve made should be something you did (ownership) which is quickly solved and saves both money and a company’s reputation. These are the two commodities I’ve just said are most treasured by employers, so if you demonstrate an ability to turn a negative into a positive and in so doing preserve one or both, you’re on the right track to a good answer.

Now for a moment, look at a situation where there are two or more young children playing inside the house and something gets broken. Upon entering the room at the sound of the crash and the impending silence from the children, the adult asks, “What happened?” or “Who broke that?” Those questions are designed to get at who is responsible. If one child points at another and says, “She did it!” and the child denies all responsibility, the adult now has a second problem in addition to the broken article; who did do it?

You and I both know the longer someone avoids ownership of the mistake, the more likely the punishment is to be harsher. Owning up right away means the child is only going to be dealing with the broken item and the fact they made the mistake of playing inside if they shouldn’t have been. Denying responsibility adds another layer; now they may be punished for denying ownership of their actions too.

When asked at the interview, show ownership for your past errors. Clearly identify in a specific example what went wrong, then move to what you did to resolve the problem based on what you learned from the situation. Finish your answer with a positive, such as being complimented by your past supervisor for taking responsibility and turning a negative into a positive. Draw the connection between taking what you learned elsewhere to not repeating that mistake in the job you are competing for now.